Mid-Cretaceous oblique rifting of West Antarctica: Emplacement and rapid cooling of the Fosdick Mountains migmatite-cored gneiss dome

By: , and 



In Marie Byrd Land, West Antarctica, the Fosdick Mountains migmatite-cored gneiss dome was exhumed from mid- to lower middle crustal depths during the incipient stage of the West Antarctic Rift system in the mid-Cretaceous. Prior to and during exhumation, major crustal melting and deformation included transfer and emplacement of voluminous granitic material and numerous intrusions of mantle-derived diorite in dikes. A succession of melt- and magma-related structures formed at temperatures in excess of 665 ± 50 °C based on Ti-in-zircon thermometry. These record a transition from wrench to oblique extensional deformation that culminated in the development of the oblique South Fosdick Detachment zone. Solid-state fabrics within the detachment zone and overprinting brittle structures record translation of the detachment zone and dome to shallow levels.

To determine the duration of exhumation and cooling, we sampled granite and gneisses at high spatial resolution for U–Pb zircon geochronology and 40Ar/39Ar hornblende and biotite thermochronology. U–Pb zircon crystallization ages for the youngest granites are 102 Ma. Three hornblende ages are 103 to 100 Ma and 12 biotite ages are 101 to 99 Ma. All overlap within uncertainty. The coincidence of zircon crystallization ages with 40Ar/39Ar cooling ages indicates cooling rates > 100 °C/m.y. that, when considered together with overprinting structures, indicates rapid exhumation of granite and migmatite from deep to shallow crustal levels within a transcurrent setting. Orientations of structures and age-constrained crosscutting relationships indicate counterclockwise rotation of stretching axes from oblique extension into nearly orthogonal extension with respect to the Marie Byrd Land margin. The rotation may be a result of localized extension arising from unroofing and arching of the Fosdick dome, extensional opening within a pull-apart zone, or changes in plate boundary configuration.

The rapid tectonic and temperature evolution of the Fosdick Mountains dome lends support to recently developed numerical models of crustal flow and cooling in orogenic crust undergoing extension/transtension, and accords with numerous studies of migmatite-cored gneiss domes in transcurrent settings.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Mid-Cretaceous oblique rifting of West Antarctica: Emplacement and rapid cooling of the Fosdick Mountains migmatite-cored gneiss dome
Series title LITHOS
DOI 10.1016/j.lithos.2015.07.005
Volume 232
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center
Description 13 p.
First page 306
Last page 318
Other Geospatial Antarctica
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional metadata about this publication, not found in other parts of the page is in this table